One area where chaos reigns, however, is the cost of energy and raw materials in Europe. After Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in 2011, Germany decided to phase out its nuclear power plants. As a result, industry’s energy costs throughout Europe are skyrocketing.
“Ultimately, Germany may successfully turn to alternate energy sources,” Kottmann says. But for now, popular sentiment against nuclear power in Germany and beyond has put Europe’s chemical industry at a competitive disadvantage to its counterpart in the U.S., where shale oil and gas have made energy relatively cheap.
Although European chemical executives and trade groups have been advocating for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of shale in Europe, most politicians there don’t support it at this time. In addition, Kottmann notes that the geology of much of the Continent may make the technique more difficult than in the U.S.
In the U.S., industry and government are for the most part willing to invest in industrial infrastructure such as pipelines, power lines, railroads, and highways. (emphasis CJ's) That is not the case by and large in Europe, Kottmann says.
“Societal attitudes are different in the U.S. versus those in Europe,” Kottmann says. “If industry doesn’t fight for its existence in Europe, society will shut it down.” Such attitudes are “one important reason why Europe’s economy won’t recover for another few years,” he adds.
The outlook for the U.S., on the other hand, is bright, Kottmann says. Clariant now derives about 12% of its sales from the U.S., the largest share for any one country. And the company is taking steps to increase that share, he says.I think it's sort of strange to hear that the US is more willing to invest in infrastructure than another place in the world.